One of the most popular posts on our site is Balance the Reproductive Cycle Naturally with Traditional Chinese Medicine. This post, written in collaboration with an acupuncturist, discusses the foods and supplements that can help us throughout our menstrual cycle: seaweeds, greens and beets are good all month long, but others (like warming spices) are best during our period. It attracts a lot of readers because we ladies face a myriad of health concerns, and many of them stem from improperly balanced hormones. And I am not talking about getting cranky or PMS-ing (though these are valid concerns), but deeper health issues that stem from a hormone imbalance or lack of hormone production.
This is a subject that is close to my heart, as I have long dealt with hormone imbalances. These imbalances have manifested as multiple bouts of candida (recurrent yeast infections) and most recently, devilishly painful breasts and a diagnosis of fibrocystic breast disease. Thankfully, this turned out to be false, and I am working on a hormone balance plan to help the pain go away.
One of the things that I’ve learned along the way is that you need to be your own advocate: learn about your body, learn about the issue you are facing and find some solutions that fit your needs. Western medicine may have the answer for you, or maybe you respond better to naturopathic medicine or acupuncture. Learn as much as you can – and do be careful with Dr. Google, that shit can mess you up. Find an advocate who truly supports your health.
For over a decade the answer to my health concerns has been naturopathic medicine and acupuncture. I’m lucky that my insurance covers some alternative medicine, and I have friends who practice this type of healing too. I was drawn to natural medicine initially because none of the half-dozen Western doctors I visited could cure me of my recurring yeast infections. They recommended pills, Monistat; one even suggested that I might be HIV-positive. Another had the audacity to say that I will just have to suffer with it for the rest of my life. Seeing a naturopath was literally my last resort. At my initial visit she made it very clear that this is NOT something that you have to suffer with, and that all the issues I was suffering with could be easily treated with supplements and food to help balance hormones naturally.
Fast forward 13 years, and I am facing another chronic issue: recurring and shockingly painful breasts. At first it was occasional, disappearing with the arrival of my period. But in the past year it’s been near constant. Enough so that it hurts to ride a bike on bouncy trails and that I didn’t want anyone to touch them. I finally saw a doctor who did a breast exam. His determination was that my breasts were loaded with cysts. He ordered a mammogram (I am only 33) and told me that there were no natural cures and I would just have painful breasts the rest of my life. After an ultrasound (I canceled the mammogram), it was shown that my breasts are actually clear and that my young, non-mama breasts are just made of denser tissue, which explains his misdiagnosis. I revisited my naturopath that cured my recurring candida years ago, and just like last time she assured me that the pain was a result of imbalanced hormones.
To balance my hormones naturally I am taking a supplemental routine of essential fatty acids (flax seed and evening primrose oil) along with trace mineral supplementation (gold, silver and copper). I’ve been taking 2000 mg of flaxseed oil during the new moon phase, and 2000 mg of evening primrose oil during the full moon phase. As you can see in the chart above there are other seeds that help too. Flaxseed and pumpkin seed oils are available as nutritional supplements, but it’s probably cheaper to buy the seeds in the bulk section. Be sure to grind them (a coffee grinder works best), as flax and sesame pass right through our digestive system; grinding the seeds ensures that you get the most nutritional benefit. Also, when you grind them, ingest them as soon as possible. The oils are volatile and are most potent when first ground. If you must grind them ahead of time, store extra in the freezer.
Seems pretty crazy, that some little seeds can help balance your cycle, right? But it really helps! According to this post from Dr. Kristy, a Naturopath in San Francisco, “Different seeds contain different types and amounts lignans and essential fatty acids. Lignans help our body bind up excess hormones, whereas fatty acids help with our hormone production. Together they work on balancing hormones throughout the entire menstrual cycle.” In just one month of EFA supplementation, by menstrual cycle has reset itself, and my period started right on the new moon, days earlier than planned. Fascinating, right? The chart above maps out your cycle of seeds and moon phases to help you with your menstrual cycle. And special thanks to Bonzai Aphrodite, who wrote about her own health challenges with hormones and more, and inspired this post.
To help my breast pain and hormone issues, I’ve also given up my daily dosing of caffeine and drastically cut back on the soy in my diet, both of which are leading factors in hormone imbalances and breast cysts. I am working on some posts about that part of the shift now… so stay tuned! And the takeaway is that I’m pretty healthy at this moment! I like feeling like I understand my hormones and my condition a bit more, because it takes the scariness out of it and let’s me feel a bit empowered. Here’s to a healthy New Year!